5.1 The consultation document highlighted that Scotland’s people are one of its greatest assets. It stressed the need for support, encouragement and empowerment; ensuring that opportunities exist for rural communities to flourish and make positive decisions for the future. The theme of people was designed to capture factors that influence economic and social development as well as quality of life.
5.2 Participants shared ideas around increasing employment and encouraging business growth across sectors. In comments on skills development, mention was frequently made of the importance of engaging the education sector, including those providing life-long learning opportunities, on issues of rural employment. They identified skills gaps and areas for development, that if addressed, offer potential for sectoral expansion. These include:
5.3 Some highlighted that supporting any development of the rural labour market would require a shift in focus among enterprise agencies, toward nurturing the skills needed to grow micro and small businesses. Innovative ways to provide this support were suggested, including bringing smaller business together to deliver skills and other training, thereby sharing costs over a larger number of participants. Others highlighted the potential of online training to alleviate travel costs and losses due to time spent away from the business.
5.4 As mentioned in Chapter 4, several participants emphasised the need for hubs and workspaces to support multiple small businesses under one roof, thereby encouraging knowledge sharing, offering joint training opportunities, and reducing the isolation that small business owners in rural areas may face. Several people suggested that more creativity on the part of public sector employers would also help to promote and retain employment in rural areas; for example, encouraging and facilitating remote working arrangements.
5.5 Many of the issues described in the previous chapter are also barriers to accessing the labour market, particularly housing, transport, childcare, and caring responsibilities. Participants indicated that flexible arrangements around working hours and childcare services could help to address this. Some argued that public transport provision in rural areas is inadequate and does not accommodate part-time work arrangements, which are common in the rural economy.
Tackling inequalities and supporting for diverse communities
5.6 Participants’ reflections on ways to tackle exclusion and inequality typically focused on access issues, gender, age and different aspects of poverty. Suggested solutions point to public awareness campaigns, creation of alternative role models, education, changes to business support, revisiting subsidy provision and legislative/policy changes.
5.7 Succession of farms through the male line was highlighted as a traditional practice that continues to perpetuate the belief that farming is an occupation reserved for men. One participant also suggested that gender pay gap disclosure, taxation reform, and improved access to barrier-free housing would help to combat inequalities. A few suggested that a mainstream ‘gender-aware’ approach should be adopted to all enterprise and growth policies to combat gender inequalities.
5.8 Some participants mentioned a paucity in data through which to understand and evidence inequalities in rural areas. This is particularly evident across groups with protected characteristics. A few respondents expressed concerns about the suitability of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation for use in rural areas and some said that local community-based groups should be involved in the development of new, more appropriate, and therefore more accurate, measures.
5.9 Participants shared their reflections on supporting social and cultural experiences, and typically mentioned the importance of space and opportunities for interaction and engagement. Some participants called for spaces members of the community can come together. These spaces would be open to people from all backgrounds to come together and learn. More specifically, local area meetings for a particular type of business could offer a platform for people to discuss and share ideas.
5.10 The value of intergenerational initiatives were frequently highlighted, and a few respondents emphasized the importance of recognising diversity as an asset, not a problem. One participant suggested a mentoring programme be established that would partner young people with more experienced professionals in their local community. Linked to this, as mentioned in Chapter 4, the potential for supporting businesses to tackle social issues was also suggested by a few respondents.
People – illustrative quotes
More flexi time in employment and providing child care.
British Horse Society
Part-time employment is also common in rural areas and can
cause difficulties in providing traditional public transport
Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership
In food and drink manufacturing we have a skills shortage and
will need to recruit 19,000 new people to the industry by 2024. We
have a shortage of
qualified people particularly engineers and food technologists.
There is good provision for young people who want to enter the food
and drink industry.
Food and Drink Federation
NC500 is an
example of a highly successful tourist industry which brings
thousands of visitors into the area, most of whom pass through very
quickly without spending much money in the local area.
Scottish Tenant Farmers Association
Added value investment is also desperately needed in
Scotland’s food processing sector so that Scotland can
effectively compete with other countries [...] The lack of malting
barley capacity and dairy processing units are just two examples of
where Scotland is missing opportunities to process and market
produce from home and losing quality product to processors down
south or in Ireland.
National Farmers Union
If we accept that there should be no reason why living, working
or visiting the rural economy should be any greater a challenge
than in urban Scotland, then the full spectrum of jobs available
throughout Scotland should be considered possible.
Scottish Countryside Alliance
Many people in rural areas operate more than one unregistered
micro business, frequently tourism-related.
Federation of Small Businesses
A belief in the success of small things. At the moment success
is measured by many, including Scottish Enterprise, as how big your
business is. This could be turnover, profit, foreign markets tapped
into. However a vibrant rural community is not going to be based on
lots of large businesses.